What is going on? Perimenopause as defined by the Mayo Clinic is “the time period during which (you) make the natural transition to menopause.” As a write this, there is a squiggly red line indicating that I have misspelled it but, no, perimenopause is real. A significant amount of people like me are going through it right now. And by “people like me,” I mean the psychotic bitches out there who feel somewhat like those poor bastards who have an alien pushing it’s way out of their stomachs in some horror flick. Trust me, some days, the alien looks pretty good in comparision.
Generally, I am not the type of person who speaks impulsively. I choose words carefully. I posit. I consider. Lately, however, things come out of my mouth without so much as a thought. Literally. I open my mouth, I say something, and I can see the words spew into an angry gray cloud. And then I think, oh shit, did I just say that? Um, yes I did. There is a distinct rage-like quality to my days that was not present before. There is a burnt edge around my narrative. But, lucky me! I am not alone. Plenty of you are getting your asses kicked too.
Louann Brizendine MD, author of The Female Brain calls perimenopause “the rocky beginning.” (Because menopause comes next. Then, apparently, you get to graduate.) There are no clear signs that you have crossed the line from being a normal female human to when you are perimenopausal. But I have been doing some research and reflecting for you. So you can be prepared. And warn people. Particularly the ones who live in your house.
- Perimenopause lasts about 2 to 9 years. Years. Not months, years. This seems excessive, don’t you think? Who can we talk to about this?
- During perimenopause, estrogen and testosterone levels take a dive. I bet some of you didn’t even know you produced testosterone. Ah, but you do. And it is some really good shit. Hello sex drive!
- There is actually a term called “perimenopausal rage.” What I described is actually well documented in current literature. It’s pretty common, too. Hopefully that will come as small consolation to my husband after I just called him an idiot. *Name calling not recommended*.
- Periods are either epic heavy like high school and/or come at unexpected intervals.
Whoever invented those pads with “wings” was an angel sent right for teenagers and perimenopausal women. And then, your cycles are like, 14 days, 35 days, 22 days, oops, now…
- Desperation hits. Naturopaths, gynecologists, psychologists, acupunturists, massage therapists, psychics, palm readers, intuitives and shamans: all are called upon. When you feel this “off,” you seek who you can to make it better. Here in suburbia, I know lots of gals who are availing themselves of supplements, birth control pills, therapy and the like. I do not judge. I get referrals.
- Puberty is a lot like perimenopause. Mood swings, depression, heavy periods, PMS. Sounds like 11th grade? Wrong. It’s now.
- Something about the word perimenopause makes it sound like a living hell. Who invents medical words? Are they behind some curtain somewhere trying to find something that sounds like a disease but is instead a perfectly natural part of aging? I think we should name it something better. Like Beatrice. Or Lover.
- Acceptance is better than fighting. Wouldn’t it be better if we stopped fighting it? I mean, if you’re really miserable then by all means, take some herbal something to take the edge off. But here is the thing. It’s happening. Behind you: diapers, breastfeeding, no time for yourself. In front of you: retirement, travel, more time for yourself.
- I have to say I’m sorry. A lot. Apologizing is becoming more fluid for me these days. I have to do it so often. It’s really hard to explain something like perimenopause to your kids. From what I am reading, it gets steadily worse too. So I am really going to have to bone up on the contrition.
- When is the good part? I keep hearing all these people like Oprah and my mom (I know, not really a scientific panel) talk about how great life is after you turn 50. All of a sudden, you gain the confidence to tell people to shove it and ditch your need to be so nurturing all the time. You spend significantly less time worrying about what people think. Bring it on! Only not yet. I like my 40’s.
- There is a reason for brain fog and my overwhelming desire to eat an entire bag of chips! My brain is being deprived of things like estrogen and progesterone and it thinks bread will help. Apparently exercise and protein actually do help. But they aren’t as yummy.
This was not meant to be a rant. It was meant to be supportive and educational, but it turned into a rant because the writer is all jittery and waiting for something to yell or cry about. But here’s the good news. According to Brizendine, every day is different so every day is an opportunity to get it right.
So tomorrow, I will try to remember that thoughts are more important than any pill I can take. That talking with friends normalizes things. And taking care of myself includes doing my yoga, remembering (many many times a day) to breathe, an egg is a better choice than a donut, forgiving myself for being slightly irate and allowing my people to hug me. Reminding myself that time in on my side. Yes it is.
But for now, I’m going to go read my book and have a lovely cry.
How do you take care of yourself?
Thanks to Barbara Paulsen at Mt. Hood Mama Photos for the images at top and bottom of this post.